Inside the big top at GOP debate

Any big surprises from the presidential debate this week at the University of South Florida?

Well, the bacon-wrapped apple hors d'oeuvres at the National Association of Home Builders reception were exceptionally good.

How did you get into such a hotsy-tot event?

Being part of the "elite" media has its perks.

Many people are concerned that when the Republican convention comes to Tampa this summer the streets will be overwhelmed with the Occupy Wall Street movement and other protesters in search of democracy and a shower. Is that worth worrying about?

Based on what I saw Monday night, I wouldn't get too anxiety-ridden. The problem is that anarchists-in-waiting never know when to shut up.

About 200 or so Occupy types arrived with their signs and chants. For a moment there, I had a flashback to my college youth. But before they could launch a really nice protest rally, it seems everyone had to give a speech that lasted longer than My Dinner With Andre. And before you could say "this is what democracy smells like," the crowd quickly lost its fervor.

What were all the speeches about?

The same thing. How many different people need to get up and whine about greedy rich people, evil corporations, oil drilling and on and on? If the Occupy people were more savvy, they would settle on just one really wadded spokesman to deliver a sort of omnibus speech about how awful, horrible and dreadful everything is so we could get on with the marching, chanting, sign-waving and bongo-playing a bit earlier.

Who else showed up?

That crazy, Koran-burning Terry Jones and a group of about 20 supporters with about one functioning brain cell among them.

What were they upset about?

That they had run out of matches?

There were reports hundreds of Ron Paul supporters were on hand too. Is that true?

You betcha. I've come to the conclusion these people are the Scientologists-meet-Justin Bieber Fan Club of the body politic.

So, how was the debate?

Do you ever get the feeling this whole nominating process is about as dignified as Steven Tyler doing his waterboarding version of the national anthem? It's not that the candidates may advocate positions I may not agree with. That's part of the political process. What irks me is that these pols think we're all a bunch of gullible half-wits.

Does anyone honestly believe Freddie Mac paid Newt Gingrich $1.6 million to provide history lessons? Can we please dispense with this silly charade of Gingrich sitting around delivering lectures on 18th century monetary policy for $1.6 million? Or that his work didn't relate to the agency's lobbying strategy, whether or not he was technically a registered lobbyist? I don't know what's more offensive — that Freddie Mac believed Gingrich's gasbag palaver was worth $1.6 million, or that he expects the public to buy into this Mr. Chips of the Beltway canard.

Do you agree with some people who say that at least Mitt Romney looks presidential?

This is the curse of having once been a film critic. For some time I've been trying to figure out whom Romney reminds me of. And then it hit me. From the eyebrows down, he looks like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. Every time Romney was asked a question Monday night I kept waiting for him to respond with: "Putting on the Ritz!" Come to think of it, he probably would have been better off if he had.

Romney doesn't do the negative attack thing very well. You know that old line about never bring a knife to a gunfight? He brings a spoon. If the debates were more genteel, more of a true intellectual exercise in public policy, perhaps Romney wouldn't look more uncomfortable than Rick Perry confronted with a dictionary. But he needs to understand he's sharing the dais with a slap-happy Moe Howard.

What did you make of Romney and Gingrich's approach to Cuba?

I kept thinking: "Missiles of January." Sheesh, there was more saber-rattling going on there than at Kim Jong Il's funeral.

In the end, who do you think won the evening?

Without a doubt I'd have to say it was the little crabcakes over at the National Association of Home Builders.

Aren't you being just a little elitist here?

Sorry. Would it make a difference if I told you I snuck in behind former Gov. Bob Martinez?

That's better.

Inside the big top at GOP debate 01/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 26, 2012 7:04pm]

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